In Name Only (1939): John Cromwell’s Romantic Melodrama, Starring Cary Grant, Carole Lombard and Kay Francis (Marriage; Divorce; Christmas)

John Cromwell’s well directed romantic melodrama, In Name Only, is based on the 1935 novel Memory of Love by Bessie Breuer.

In Name Only
In Name Only.jpg

Movie poster

The film is elevated above the routine soap opera due to the superb actors who form the necessary triangle: Carole Lombard, Kay Francis, and Cary Grant as the man in between.

Our Grade: B (***1/2 out of *****)

Both Grant and Lombard  (who gets top billing above Francis) were cast against type. Lombard replaced Katharine Hepburn, the original choice for the part, after the latter was termed “box-office poison” by movie exhibitors, due to the commercial failure of Bringing Up Baby in 1938, (it is now considered to be a a classic, one of the best screwball comedies ever made). Hepburn’s status would change in 1940, after the huge critical and commercial success of the Oscar-winning comedy The Philadelphia Story, also co-starring Grant.

Grant plays Alec Walker, a man stuck in a loveless marriage to Maida (Francis), who had wed him for his wealth and social status.

Things change when he meets a young widow Julie Eden (Lombard), who’s raising alone her daughter (Peggy Ann Garner), and the two fall in love.  Alec asks his wife for a divorce, but she refuses.  To remain in control, she manipulates Alec’s parents to believe that it is Julie who aims to destroy the marriage.

On Christmas Eve, a distraught Alec gets drunk, falls asleep in front of a window, and falls down. At the hospital, Dr. Muller holds that the patient will recover from his injuries if he has the will (and reason) to live.

When Maida tries to visit Alec, Julie blocks her. Maida then confesses that she gave up the man she truly loved for Alec’s position and wealth. However, Alec’s parents overhear her admission and expose her true identity, clearing the way for Alec and Julie to get married.

The fictional town in the movie, Bridgefield, Connecticut, is based on the town of Ridgefield, Connecticut.

Carole Lombard as Julie Eden
Cary Grant as Alec Walker
Kay Francis as Maida Walker
Charles Coburn as Richard Walker
Helen Vinson as Suzanne Duross, Maida’s “best” friend
Katherine Alexander as Laura Morton
Jonathan Hale as Dr. Ned Gateson, a friend of the Walker family
Nella Walker as Grace Walker
Alan Baxter as Charley
Maurice Moscovich as Dr. Muller
Peggy Ann Garner as Ellen Eden, Julie’s daughter
Charles Coleman as Archie Duross


Directed by John Cromwell
Produced by George Haight
Screenplay by Richard Sherman, based on “Memory of Love,” 1935 novel by Bessie Breuer
Music by Roy Webb
Cinematography J. Roy Hunt
Edited by William Hamilton
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures

Release date: August 18, 1939

Running time: 94 minutes
Budget $722,000
Box office $1,321,000